Opera Scotland

Zanetto 2019Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Zanetto


Zanetto was initially intended as an attempt to provide a romantic companion piece for Cavalleria Rusticana, and employed the same librettists. Scottish Opera performed it here with another rare two-hander, Susanna's Secret.

The context 

These two short operas (each around 45 minutes) are not often done. Zanetto, in particular, is a definite rarity, and the presentation of works outside the operatic canon is to be commended. However, on the strength of this single performance, even with a complete sense of commitment from the conductor, orchestra and two singers, it was, unfortunately, clear that the work is unlikely to be seen with any frequency. This does not mean that there is no attractive music - it has much to enjoy - but it did not really gel as a red-blooded drama.

Mascagni is a frustrating composer. He was clearly highly talented. However it seems that he was desperately keen to avoid being stuck with repeating the Cavalleria formula. Its successor, L'amico Fritz, could hardly have been more different, with its gentle pastoral atmosphere.  That piece also contained a travesti role of a musician, a young wandering gipsy boy Beppe.  When Scottish Opera played L'amico Fritz  a couple of years ago, Hanna Hipp was about to play Cherubino and the character of Beppe seemed more clearly drawn than this title role which she also played. Mascagni could certainly still produce red-blooded drama, as we will find later this year when Iris is produced. Guglielmo Ratcliff and Isabeau are also full of powerful effects.

Zanetto has some lovely effects in the orchestra - the prelude sounded almost like Grieg, and there was one dramatic sequence when the lower strings gave a hint of Puccini's recent Manon Lescaut. However there was little that was instantly memorable. 

The problem, dramatically, came simply from the absence of a seriously engaging duet. Both characters were three-dimensional, and beautifully depicted by the two singers, but there was a sense that they were always at arm's length from each other, with little emotional tension - will they or won't they? We can certainly be grateful to Hanna Hipp and Sinéad Campbell-Wallace for learning by heart and acting out a piece which they are, with the best will in the world, unlikely to need retain for future use. 

Even so, they both grabbed what opportunities came their way. It is no surprise that Hanna Hipp is already booked for major roles at ENO, Covent Garden and elsewhere. The soprano, with an attractive, easily produced tone,  will be rewarded with some performances as Tosca later in the autumn.


The production

Zanetto was cleverly staged in St Mary's, Haddington. The orchestra were placed in the chancel with the audience (some 250) in the nave and south transept. The raised playing area crossed in front of the orchestra and conductor. Several well-placed supertitle screens made the emotional to and fro clear. Silvia remained on the platform throughout while Zanetto entered and left through the nave's central aisle. Sightlines were fine and the warm ecclesiastic acoustic suited music that was, for the most part slowish and gently lyrical.

There was a good sized audience in St Mary's and they clearly enjoyed it thoroughly. The applause was extended and enthusiastic, so Zanetto certainly worked on one level. It is just a pity that the work isn't slightly stronger.

After the interval, the Wolf-Ferrari piece was given a fizzing performance.


Scottish Opera's 2019/20 Season

The season opened at the Edinburgh International Festival with the European premiere of Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli. The autumn performances got under way with a visit to the Lammermuir Festival on 20 September with a single performance in concert of an unusual double bill - Mascagni's Zanetto and Wolf-Ferrari's Susanna's Secret. The Glasgow season opens with a welcome revival of Tosca. There is a Sunday afternoon concert of Iris, another rare work by Mascagni. In the New Year there are new productions of Nixon in China by John Adams as well as Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream. and Sullivan's Gondoliers. Further concerts include a pairing of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana with Leoncavallo's Zingari. There are also concert performances of a late Sullivan piece, Utopia, Limited, as well as the usual Opera Highlights tour of the Highlands and Islands.

Performance Cast

Silvia a beautiful courtesan

Sinéad Campbell-Wallace

Zanetto a young poet and minstrel

Hanna Hipp

Performance DatesZanetto 2019

Map List

St Mary's Church, Haddington | Haddington

20 Sep, 19.30

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